The last time her co-workers and one of her closest friends saw her alive, Jasilas “Chyna” Wright was leaving Stiletto’s Cabaret late Tuesday night with a man.
Wright, 19, had previously introduced him to others as her boyfriend from Texas. But several friends of Wright’s or co-workers at the Bourbon Street strip club where she danced for tips suspected he was — in their words — “a pimp” who would sometimes set her up on dates as an escort.
To some, it appeared Wright and the man were arguing as they departed.
About 5 a.m. Wednesday, a few hours after she left Stiletto’s, Wright was found dead on Interstate 10 in Metairie, her body in multiple pieces.
Officials didn’t release many new details about the death Thursday, other than to say she died of numerous blunt-force injuries. But employees at Stiletto’s and friends of Wright said authorities had come around asking questions about the light-skinned, dreadlocked, mustachioed man who was with her shortly before she died.
No one The New Orleans Advocate interviewed about Wright wanted their names published out of fear for their safety as well as deference to the ongoing investigation into the death of their friend and co-worker, who leaves behind a 10-month-old son, Patrick. But all said it was their impression that authorities were trying to identify and locate the mysterious man who accompanied Wright as she left the club.
That man could be the key to discovering how Wright died: Was she, for instance, let out of the car and then inadvertently run over by another motorist as she walked along the highway? Or was she deliberately killed?
“My heart is caving in,” one of Wright’s closest friends said as she remembered the victim’s quiet, bubbly demeanor. “She was a sweet human being.”
Wright’s body was discovered about five days after police found the corpse of 16-year-old Kaylan Ward on I-10 in New Orleans East.
Ward died of multiple blunt-force trauma injuries as well, possibly because a car struck her while she was on the interstate, police have said. Her body also was found in several pieces.
While authorities have noted the uncanny similarities in the two deaths, New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said there is no evidence linking Ward to Wright, whose case is being investigated by State Police and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. At a news conference Thursday, Harrison discouraged speculation that the cases are related.
At a vigil Thursday in Central City in her honor, Wright was remembered as a member of the dance team at Walter L. Cohen High School. Friends said she was a devoted, loving daughter to her mother, Nedra.
An obituary run by The Times-Picayune suggests that Nedra’s husband and Jasilas’ father — Silas “Frog” Anderson — died in a shooting in New Orleans in 1997. Jasilas was about 1 at the time.
While they weren’t entirely familiar with details about her formative years, two women identifying themselves as friends of Wright said she spent at least some time in Texas.
She first became known to people working in the establishments along the 300 and 400 blocks of Bourbon when she walked into the club Temptations and asked for a job within the past several months, they said.
The club didn’t have any openings, but employees referred her to Stiletto’s next door. Stiletto’s gave her a job, and she also got some work at Centerfolds a block away from time to time.
Seen frequently with studs in her pierced cheeks, Wright was a mild-mannered, good worker, a pair of Stiletto’s employees said.
“She was a pleasure to work with,” another person who occasionally supervised her said.
It wasn’t until recently that the man Wright was last seen with began picking her up after work. He would drive a gray, four-door sedan, one co-worker said.
While Wright would describe the man as her boyfriend, her co-workers and friends surmised the relationship was not strictly romantic.
For example, a pair of Wright’s photographs had appeared on escort ads, one posted online as recently as late last month.
Nonetheless, no one anticipated the news that would come Wednesday morning. And when the news did make its way around, it badly shook those who knew Wright.
“It could’ve been me,” one Stiletto’s employee said.
“It’s so close to home,” the person who occasionally supervised Wright said. “It’s so crazy ... (that) girls can get themselves into trouble and not even know it.”
They also hoped authorities would work tirelessly to figure out how Wright died and, if she was slain, to hold the killer accountable.
At the vigil, Wright’s grandmother, Carol Bernard, directed a message at the man she believes is responsible for her granddaughter’s death.
“Turn yourself in,” Bernard said. “You may think that we don’t know. But God knows.”
Staff writers Matt Sledge and Jim Mustian contributed to this report.